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Bought some vintage electronics, and the 20 foot data cable bundle smells like mildew very strongly. I need something to seal in that smell and kill the fungi on the insulators, without damaging the not-easily-replaceable wires & cables.

  • Hi alphablender, Welcome to Lifehacks.StackExchange. We hope you enjoy sharing knowledge and experience here. – Stan May 31 at 3:17
  • What material is the jacket? Plastic or cloth? A photo or two would help. – Mike Waters Jul 12 at 13:24
  • @MikeWaters it is plastic, from about 1982. It is the cable to an Autolocator III for an MCI JH24 multitrack tape recorder. – alphablender Sep 11 at 23:53
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Baking soda is quite good at removing odors. "Mix" the cable with baking soda, put everything in a sealed bag. Excess soda will not hurt, add more to the bag.

Occasionally mildly shake the bag with the cable, to allow "fresh" soda to work on the cable.

Note: it might work better if you prepare a very concentrated baking soda solution (with water). However, the water may infiltrate internally (the cables being old) and as a result do more damage than help.


I used that trick with winter boots, even without the bag. All odors disappeared quickly (less than a few days).


Alternative solution

If removing the odor from the cable does not work, you may want to remove the cable entirely, and replace it. You might even be able to find a similar cable, to keep the vintage look of the thingy.

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Try a dilute solution of chlorine bleach in water.

When we first bought our house, there was black mold about 18" up from the floor on the drywall in the basement. I sprayed that with a 10% solution of Clorox®. In little time the black disappeared, and so did the moldy odor.

Remember to use rubber gloves, keep it away from the contacts, and clean it off thoroughly afterwards.

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If it is gooey and sticky, you can use an alcohol based product to clean and remove all the dirt on the wires. Acetone is abrasive, so I use isopropyl alcohol (IPA) instead. It cleans surfaces very well and is not abrasive or discoloring, I think it will also get rid of the smells.

Isopropyl alcohol

  • Acetone is volatile (chemically active) and flammable but not abrasive (capable of removing material by grinding and friction.) – Stan Aug 14 at 15:39
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Febreeze Fabric or Febreeze Fabric Extra Strength can seal-in all sorts of odours…
without leaving behind any tell-tale artificial bouquet stink. Some people (me) are sensitive to the various scents added to the stuff; but, the fragrance-free, unscented stuff seems acceptably undetectable.

The stuff works by encapsulating the offensive odour within a thin non-porous vapour barrier. It's applied from a pump-spray container and when applied according to instructions works as advertised. It covers every nook and cranny as it was made for covering household surfaces from upholstery to carpeting including whatever was on, or in, it.

Spread the data cable bundle out in a loose coil on the floor or some suitable spot. Mist the bundle very lightly, wait a few seconds, flip the bundle over to do the other side. A couple of very light applications with a brief drying-time between is more effective than a single heavy application. That should swallow any similar odour I can think of.

Another benefit is that it does not affect electric or electronic connections in any way when dry that I'm aware.

Good Luck.

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Jeweler's wash, which you use in sonic jewel cleaners. Allow the ends to soak in the wash for 1/4 hour. The stuff is super and can be used on metals as soft as gold.

Jewelry Cleaner

https://www.amazon.com/Brilliant%C2%AE-Jewelry-Cleaner-Cleaning-Basket/dp/B00635S03U

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    Will this harm the electronics or wire insulation? – James Jenkins Jul 12 at 12:38
  • I disagree. The connectors should never be dipped in this or anything other liquid, or it will wick into wires causing hidden corrosion and other problems. Besides, the smell is likely not all coming from the ends. The insulation needs to be treated. – Mike Waters Jul 12 at 13:21

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